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VIA MYFOXDC:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – More Metro riders will soon be able to use their cell phones within the system. By midnight on Friday, riders who use AT&T, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile will join Verizon customers in having service at 20 of Metro’s busiest underground stations.

They include: Ballston, Bethesda, Columbia Heights, Crystal City, Dupont Circle, Farragut North, Farragut West, Federal Triangle, Foggy Bottom-GWU, Friendship Heights, Gallery Place-Chinatown, Judiciary Square, L’Enfant Plaza, McPherson Square, Metro Center, Pentagon, Pentagon City, Rosslyn, Smithsonian and Union Station.

Metro Spokesperson, Lisa Farbstein cautions, “This is only on the platform. The next phase is we’re going to expand it so when people are coming off the street and getting on the escalator and mezzanine, their call won’t be dropped.”

The plan is for the remaining 27 underground stations to be wired by next fall. Full service isn’t expected until October 2012.

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless have installed hardware to make the calls possible, at no extra cost to Metro.

During the next few weeks, the cell phone providers will continue to enhance the wireless network. Te hope is to provide coverage from the street into each station and eventually on the trains.

For many Metro riders, the expanded coverage is good news. Many, like Mark Stanley, have stories of being stranded or stuck on Metro, with no way to notify loved ones.

He says, “It was my first day here, and I didn’t get off my train. I was stuck for like 30 minutes. I wish I had someone to call, but I couldn’t do that.”

Metro rider Jibreel Oliver adds, “I think people need to stay connected even when they’re downstairs, especially when they’re down here cause you don’t know what’s happening sometimes.”

The cell phone providers say it’s all about safety and so do Metro officials.

The wireless contract is expected to net Metro $25 million during the initial 15-year contract.

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